Tag Archives: bs

on Passing. Finally.

I don’t know why I was expecting to see the crisp white NCARB envelope as I flipped through the stack of statements and magazines, perhaps it’s some sort of ARE sixth sense that one develops over the course of the process.  That or, after all of the exams, I’ve finally learned how to listen to my gut.  And just as I had expected, there the unmistakeable blue striped envelope sat at the bottom of the stack.

For the first time in all of the result openings, I hesitated.

Walking out of the exam I had felt that I did a decent job, better than the first attempt, but still not sure if it was good enough.  As the week went on I scribbled notes to myself on concepts to remember to focus on should I be faced with a third round of studying.  As I waited for the results, exam specifics blended into an overall sense of uncertainty, followed by an overwhelming wave of peace.  The worst that could happen would be that I would fail again, and then try even harder.  As I looked at the envelope these two weeks of emotions all surged through my system once more in rapid succession.  First the fear, then the peace.

My finger slid through the fold of the envelope.  I peeked inside.

PASS.

About a year ago, as I prepared for the structures exam, I caught myself daydreaming about the feeling of euphoria one must experience when getting their final pass letter.  Are there tears of joy?  Squeals of excitement?  Does the weight of the ARE albatross hanging around one’s neck suddenly disappear?  Whatever the feeling it must be glorious.  As my moment arrived it was a strange amalgamation of those things, a deep exhale of relief while blinking back a tear.  Upon reaching the light at the end of the tunnel one is enveloped in a warm sun lit glow of a perfect summer’s day.  It’s the most intimate and yet all encompassing feeling.  It’s not big or flashy, it’s simply tranquil.

There really is no fanfare at this point, I’m proud for accomplishing the seven exam feat and excited to finish up my IDP and state board requirements to finally get the license in hand.  Then we’ll party.  But until that day arrives I’m grateful for the success of passing, amazed at the amount I’ve grown as an [almost] architect, and  humbled by all of you who have joined me along the way.  I started writing this blog to keep track of a personal quest and never expected to reach the end of the journey with so many new colleagues and friends.   I’ve been touched by your stories and encouraged by your words.  To me, it’s incredible how an examination that is so highly individualized manages to bring us all together.

It’s been an honor to share my AREndurance with you and I thank you for sharing yours with me.

Cheers.

actually, more like the beginning

actually, more like the beginning.

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BS Take 2: Exam Review

we've got your stack vents and vent stacks right here, folks.

we’ve got your stack vents and vent stacks right here, folks.

I walked into my friendly Prometric testing center on Saturday morning expecting little to have changed in the six months I was away.  For the most part my expectations were correct, except for all the kids (no, not GRE candidates, actual tiny humans) wandering about, bemoaning the fact that they were there on a weekend for tutoring in the Sylvan Learning Center portion of the suite.  (I felt their pain).  As I signed in and waited my turn in the morning rush my eye caught a row of vertical silver pipes in the corner.  Wasn’t there a wall there before? And why does that sign next to it say “Toilets WORK sinks DON’T”?  Before I could start pointing out stack vents and waste pipes and wondering if I could see what was wrong, my name was called.  Investigation would have to wait until break time.

A new gal got me checked in and I found myself seated at a spot right by the door into the testing room.  I hoped that it wouldn’t be too distracting of a spot and fortunately it wasn’t.  The familiar hum of the air filter/white noise machine in the corner hushed my thoughts and my focus turned to the task at hand: facing my BS nemesis for a rematch. 

It’s always comforting when the first multiple choice question is one that you know the answer to.  Having a pretty good idea on the second one is nice as well.  Same with the third.  As I worked through my first pass through the 95 questions, which took me about an hour and 15 minutes to do, I felt that things were going much better than last time.  I knew how to solve the calculations and most of the vocabulary and concepts were familiar.  That being said, I marked over half the questions as I found myself constantly hesitating on the answer.  On my second pass I made the conscious effort to trust my gut on as many answers as possible, knocking the number of marked problems to about 25.  In the last half hour I worked through them as many times as I could, and when time was up I had about six left that I just made a wild guess on.  

Overall, I felt that I prepared the best that I could have, and that the problems I truly struggled on were those WTF questions that I would have never thought to have studied.  You know the ones, they always appear when you’re on a bit of  a roll.  “I know that, and I know that, and….” suddenly your eyes get wide  “… I…I don’t know the answer to that!”  It never fails.  

I took my break and fiddled with the faucet in the bathroom which actually worked, making a liar out of the sign posted outside.  I munched on a granola bar and flipped through the newspaper…how many people actually feel inclined to read when waiting for an exam?  Probably not many given the crisp edges of the front page.  With a few minutes left I headed back to my desk and got prepared for the vignette.  Almost done. 

The drawing portion wasn’t much more challenging than the NCARB example.  It was a little tricky to figure out the most appropriate lighting layout in a few rooms, but once I finally got the right combination of fixtures and orientation  I recognized that there really wasn’t a better solution.  Ducts and diffusers fell into place quickly, and before I knew it I had a pretty solid answer.  I spent the last half hour of my time checking dimensions and wondering if I should nudge ceiling grids and lights to get foot candle levels adjusted even further.  Like many of the multiple choice questions, I felt it was best to go with my gut on my design, and i justified my decision by thinking “well if I was doing this for work, this would probably be what they want to see.”   With five minutes left on the clock I called it good enough.  

My announcement of completion was met with a smile and friendly “Woot!” from the exam proctor.  Would this be the last time that I signed my name in the binder and walked out the door?  I’m still not too sure.   

hopefully the last Post Prometric Pint ever purchased.

hopefully the last Post Prometric Pint ever purchased.

I met up with Nate in Northwest Portland and we headed out in search of beer. I shot down the suggestion of a semi-new BBQ place, as that’s the meal we had after I took BS the first time (apparently I’m a bit superstitious). We continued our walk on the newly reopened Lompoc Tavern and instantly slid into a booth with a good view of the remaining few minutes of the Champions League Final.  I love my Timbers, but European soccer is such a delight to watch.  The Post Prometric Pint was a Kick Axe Pale Ale, light and hoppy.  It might be my favorite of all the pints I’ve celebrated with. We spend the rest of the day kicked back at Nate’s relaxing (aka: I fell asleep on the couch almost instantly) and enjoyed watching the Timbers defeat DC United followed by Chinese takeout and Globe Trekker on PBS.  It really wasn’t anything special, but after 2+ weeks of hitting the books hard in almost total isolation, Nate said it best: “I’m just glad to have my Jenny back.”

Now that I’ve had a couple of days to rest up, and enjoy time with family and friends, I’m feeling ok about the exam.  While I don’t know if my performance was good enough for a pass, I do feel confident that I did a much better job preparing this time around.  The BS exam is an incredibly challenging exam, and I feel that one has to truly dedicate some time to understating all of the different content areas.  The more you know walking into this exam, the better off you will be.  It’s not the division to gloss over and wing…unless maybe all you do is engineering coordination for your day job.  I’m still frustrated that I had to retake this exam, but I also feel like I’ve leaned a lot more about Building Systems then I ever thought I would know.  That alone is almost as important as the pass letter I’m waiting on.  I just hope it arrives sooner than later….not sure how I feel about BS Round 3. 

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On reminders and my (revised) BS Study Guide

As I write this I have just over an hour and a half until the deadline to call Prometic and reschedule passes. I don’t plan to, but as each exam arrives, I find the occasion curious. Signing up for each division is gut wrenching, but the nausea goes away after a day or two. As the examination draws near the appreciation slowly begins to rebuild, but there’s comfort in the fact that it is still “x” number of days away. Until the Appointment Reminder email shows up in the inbox. Uhoh, what’s that feeling in the pit of my stomach?

“Hey, just wanted to let you know that dooms day is almost here…want to get out of it? Call this number.”

Two weeks ago I would have called. A week ago I would have called. Today? I’m not calling. I’m feeling….okay. Not 100% but ok.

*cue the Rocky montage music*

*cue the Rocky montage music*

It’s amazing how that one quick note makes you stop and reconsider everything you think you know, and worry about how much you don’t. The “No biggie” or “No way!” moment. The moment to assess if you’re not only prepared academically, but also emotionally for the task at hand. After a discouraging Monday which ended in a tear stained and failed Kaplan practice exam things are looking a little better. (Sleep helped. When in doubt, sleep…I often forget this.) A little more progress was made Tuesday, and today I woke up feeling like I have the confidence to give it a shot. I want to sit for Building Systems.  Maybe I won’t pass again, I’m still a bit overwhelmed by the content, but at this point I’ll feel worse if I *don’t* take it.

I finished the updates to my study guide late on Sunday, (here’s a copy as a PDF) and think it covers just about everything I could get my hands on.  As always, hope it’s useful to someone else too…and apologies in advance for the misspellings and typos, I’ve already caught a few.

The goal this week has been distilling the most critical information and trying to digest as much as I can.  Like the last attempt, I’m feeling pretty confident about the overall concepts for each content area, but am still not where I’d like to be with the details.  That being said, I feel like I already know more than I did last time, so that bit of optimism is keeping me going as I shuffle through all of my notes.  I knocked out a 90% on the NCARB practice problems, but (as previously mentioned) bombed the Kaplan Q&A. I guess I’d rather fail now then on Saturday, and my plan for tonight is to go through the explanations and understand why I got things wrong.  (It really helped me prepare for SS, so why not try it again?)  I’m feeling better about working with the equation reference sheet that NCARB provides and I’m confident about the vignette.  I still need to spend some time looking at diagrams in MEEB and/or Architectural Graphic Standards, but I don’t want to overwhelm myself doing so.  At this point it makes the most sense to focus on the details, and memorizing the the little things like ADA dimensional requirements, typical decibel levels for spaces, and types of conduit to use in different applications.  I also want to get a handle on a few mechanical systems (looking at you VAV and Constant Volume), general acoustics, and Illuminance vs. Luminace concepts that are still a little fuzzy.  Can I pull all of that off by Friday night?  I’m not sure, but I’m going to try my hardest.

For me, the exam doesn’t start when I sit down at the workstation, but when I pass the deadline to call and reschedule. There’s no turning back at that point. Do not pass go, do not recollect your 210 dollars (if only), head straight to Prometric and wait for your turn. As I pass that moment today I recognize that I’m entering into my exam mode. I’m nervous (very nervous), but at the same time my mind feels like it’s 100% turned to the content and comprehension that seemed difficult a few weeks ago is almost effortless now. I guess I’m lucky in that regard.  At this point there’s little more to say then it’s time to aim high in hope and work.

Well, maybe I’ll say one more thing. As I was browsing information about refrigeration cycles, I ran across this educational film from 1944.  No joke, it’s one of the best resources on the topic I’ve seen due to it’s concise explanation and simple diagrams.  It’s also one of my favorites, as the thought alone of a bunch of early-Mad-Men-esque guys sitting around in suits smoking and drinking scotch as one says “Hey Bill, we otta get that picture on refrigeration off to the fellas down at the DOE.” makes me furiously happy.

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if only BS was as fun as PBS

For as long as I can remember, well back into the early days of my childhood, one of the highlights of my non-cable-dwelling lifestyle was turning on PBS and watching “This Old House” on Saturday evenings. While my weekends are typically a little busier now, I still catch myself  streaming episodes I miss online when I have a free time.  And besides, now that Kevin, Richard, and Rodger tweet, the good times don’t have to be limited to one day a week, right?  As I wasted a bit of time looking for anything to do but study, I watched an episodes that included a bit on alternative septic systems.   While the chances of the information about “Poop Central” showing up on the exam are slim to none, I can at least confidently say that it helped a tiny bit in my  BS preparation.   And if it does, well, I guess I’m going to have to send PBS a bonus contribution in thanks.

In other tweet news, a few weeks ago user @simplybrinn posted a link to a document she’s compiling for ARE Resources.  It’s really handy, and I’m sure it will become even more in depth as she knocks out her last exams.  Thanks again for sharing, Brinn!

I’ve gone through the vignette a few times and am feeling pretty good about that portion. My completion time is just where it should be, and my solutions seem to work.  I should probably post to areforum as a final review…but it’s kind of a low priority at this point.  I passed the vignette portion of the exam the first time around, so I guess I’m not too worried about it.

oh so *that's* how they work

oh so that’s how they work

Multiple Choice studying is going well, and with 1o days to go until the exam I’m feeling like I’m at the point I was walking into BS the first time.  That means that I have just over a week to review, retain, and organize all of the information in my brain….and it’s probably going to take the entire time to do so.   I’m still working on finalizing my revised study guide and I’m a little surprised to see just how much I missed.  So far I’ve added about 25 additional pages of notes, charts, and diagrams, and hopefully it will be useful come exam day.  I’ve taken a few practice exams and gone through all of the Kaplan Q&A questions and as of right now my scores aren’t too great.

My next step is to go back through what I missed and understand why the correct answers were selected  and what the incorrect answers actually mean.   It’s going to be time consuming, but a worthwhile exercise.  I haven’t gone through any MEEB diagrams yet either, so this weekend I should be able to kick back and look through those now that I have a more well rounded understanding of all of the information.  Overall, I’m finding that I can explain strategies and systems conceptually, but getting stuck on the proper terminology and definitions.   I won’t be satisfied that I’ve prepared myself well enough for exam day until I have this review and honing portion of study covered.  That being said, at this point that goal appears attainable.   Fortunately I have the majority of the weekend to study and I’m looking forward to knocking out the last few pages of revised notes and getting to the review.

And, as always, taking a break for This Old House.

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on electricty and keeping the faith

So far, my strategy for re-studying has been to start with with the basics and work my way, slowly, through more advanced concepts.  Looking back over my notes (it’s really nice to have a study guide to start with, by the way) and my posts here revealed that I glossed over a lot of information during my first attempt.  I still don’t think that I missed anything, but I do recall moments in the exam when I quietly kicked myself for not getting into the level of detail that I should have. I’ll be damned if that’s the case again.

Last week I worked through an overall assessment of where I stand.  My biggest concerns are really getting a handle on mechanical, electrical, lighting, and acoustical systems.  I’m feeling alright with passive, fire, and pluming, and I’m not quite sure where I need to improve on conveyance and security.  Addressing those will be the goal of this weekend.  I should probably also dust off the vignette and give that a go, too.

transformers_3_dark_of_the_moon

no, not these.

This week  I’ve spent the better part of the evenings tying to wrap my head around the basics of electricity.  I was doing alright until I got to transformers, and then all came to a standstill as I stared at single and three phase configuration diagrams.  I read, I sketched, I googled, I YouTubed, everything was either too vague or ridiculously complex to help me figure it out. Yet after banging my head against the desk a couple of times something must of rattled right, because I could comprehend just how Wye and Delta connections work.  That, or walking away for a milkshake was the break I needed for it all to sink in (unnecessary calories included).  My next goal is to address different voltage and amperage types, their characteristics, and common values for residential and commercial applications.  Like transformers, I’m assuming it’s not that difficult once I’m really in the right mindset.   The challenge is getting there.

The studying process for a retake is surprisingly different than the first time around, and I’m I starting to notice that perhaps I’ve gotten myself overly worked up for BS 2.0.  For the first attempt I tried to learn as much as I could, with the mindset that a well rounded approach to learning the content would be the best strategy. With a retake I’ve found myself almost pessimistically believing that what I knew before wasn’t good enough.  I’ve noticed that I’m obsessing over studying and making sure I understand every little detail before moving on to the next topic.  That’s a big red flag. If I keep up with this frenzied attack I’ll stress out or burn out long before exam day on the 25th.  Quite frankly I think I already am.  Stepping back and looking at the big picture, and then zooming in on the most critical details is really the best approach.  It worked 6 out of 7 times, so perhaps it’s time to take a little of the advice I tend to dole out. Keep the faith and keep plugging away.  It’ll all make sense eventually.

I mean it’s a multiple choice exam…it’s not like we’re preparing to fight the Decepticons.

 

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Alright, back to work.

I spent most of the day plugged into Pandora listening to a combination of macklemore and paul simon (don’t ask me how that mix works, but it does…oh it does) while drafting and otherwise muddling through construction document sheet preparation. And as it typically goes, the mind wanders a little on days like this. It wanders to where to get the next cup of coffee, or to that sweet timbers victory last weekend, or to weekends in general. While I clicked about Revit and thought of cafes and soccer and visiting gallery exhibits a little voice piped up in the back of my head, likely one of those ignorable Pandora commercials….a split second later I realized that wait no, it wasn’t. Between the beats of lackadaisical hip hop my conscience steered me towards a more pressing dream.

*sigh* Alright. Let’s get this exam over with.

There are certain critical considerations to mull over when selecting a day to sit for any division of the ARE. After one determines what realistic timeframe they need to prepare for each exam, then it’s best to address the major events taking place that will severely distract from studying. You know the culprits: birthdays, holidays, major work deadlines, etc. Even if you say you will, we all know that there will be no preparation done on these days, and in some cases those leading up to them. I’ve found that taking a few minutes to thoroughly consider my personal commitments before registering has paid off by only having to reschedule one exam. Otherwise I’ve felt as if there’s been adequate time to prepare for each…regardless of my results. As I looked over my calendar for the next few months I found my options to be fairly open (save for Mother’s Day, a few Timbers matches, and a handful of after work events). A click into Prometric to search for availability came back with only two Saturdays that would work: May 25th or June 2nd. I’d be damned if I wasn’t taking it when I was eligible to do so in May, primarily for the sake of principle, and I really didn’t want to spend my entire Memorial Day weekend stuck at my desk studying. A few hours that Saturday morning taking the test would still leave plenty of time for fun….and to enjoy the long awaited return of Arrested Development (I never thought I’d see the day).

So I clicked the 25th, 9am, paid my fee, and jotted the appointment down in my calendar. As I said way back on Exam #2, the involuntary urge to hurl after signing up never goes away, even after all this time. For a brief moment it’s hard not to freeze and think that perhaps it would be better to just hold off a little longer. But then as quickly as that cowardly feeling arrives, it morphs into courage. You come to your senses, quit being a chicken, and get back to work.

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2013: or the year we get this BS over with.

time to get back to figuring out what the heck is going on around here

time to get back to figuring out what the heck is going on around here

Well look at the time, is it 2013 already? Hope your holidays were merry and bright! By the looks of the stats for this site it appears that I’m not the only one who took a couple of weeks off at the end of the year. Unfortunately you all put me to shame by getting back to this ARE madness on January 2nd. Nicely done.

The first order of business is to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your supportive words on my BS failure. Heart strings were definitely tugged. Having a mandatory break over the holidays gave me time to come to peace with my exam, and I’ve decided to sincerely embrace the failure as an opportunity to learn even more about building systems than I knew before. Like I’ve mentioned, it’s a fascinating topic, and I’d much rather have to restudy mechanical systems than say, AIA contracts, or lateral forces, or…well, pretty much anything on the other six exams. Plus, as some have said, a little conflict here does make for a good overall story (something to keep in mind for a potential Pritzker Prize acceptance speech someday, right?)  There’s comfort knowing that even the greyest of times will fade away to new sunny moments.   Here’s hoping that all of you who have found yourselves in the same fail boat are feeling a similar renewed spirit this new year.

With every fresh start comes the opportunity to develop a plan that improves upon our previous surefire-bulletproof-no-nonsense strategy (because we all know how that worked out).  While our friends are dusting off their gym shoes, we can dust off our Kaplan/Ballast/Archiflash guides that were tucked away by September after no longer seeming necessary.  Perhaps the best place to start is with a basic analysis of what worked and what didn’t on exam day, and then recap the resources that were used to prepare.  I know that there were so many sites and guides that I didn’t look at because I felt like MEEB covered it.  I was wrong.  For me, pulling information from a wide array of sources helps me better understand the topic as a whole.  As I prepare for BS Round 2, I’ll be keeping better track of what I’ve read and summarized for each content area, and how I’ve been able to build off of them. It’s a large task, but I’m confident that I’ll be able to pull it off by May.  I’m anxious to get an exam scheduled as soon as it’s possible to do so.

And, speaking of scheduling, there’s going to be a little less of it during the NCARB blackout this summer.  In case you missed the ARE E-news of December 2012, no exams will be administered or scheduled for approximately 8 weeks beginning July 1, 2013.  The bad news is that many interns will have lost a few good months to knock out an exam or two before fall…and the good news is that now there’s no excuse not to work on your summer tan.

But for now it’s time to get back to work and stay as optimistic as possible.  January is about making the dreams and aspirations of the last year a reality, and I have good feelings for all of us in 2013.

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on failure.

Too soon to add this to my Christmas list?

To summarize: I failed BS. I bombed it with major deficiencies in all areas except the vignette, actually. Dang.

Not wanting to waste both my time and yours, I figured a little break to collect my thoughts and avoid a pity party would be a good idea. I also had a really nice Thanksgiving/Christmas kickoff weekend, which seriously helped my spirits. Yes, I’m still bummed, but I’m also relieved to know my fate and (finally) motivated to come up with a game plan for success six months from now.

The way I see it, when it comes to failure we are (arguably) fortunate to have so many motivators available to help get us back on track. Blogs on making things happen, encouragement from family/friends, a “get motivated” subreddit, Cool Runnings. We’re part of an industry/profession/culture where disappointment is as common, if not more-so, than success. Bad critiques, rejected proposals, cancelled projects…We’re trained and hardened to take lousy moments for what they’re worth and move on.

And yet tearing open that familiar white NCARB envelope with the blue trim, expecting the worst while hoping for the best, and seeing that four letter F word silences all of those motivators with a deafening blow. A fail is not what you want to see printed. In print, failure is real. It changes your mentality, and amidst all the other emotions and thoughts floating around your mind only one thing is certain:

Failing sucks.

It sucks when you’re so damn close to being finished with the whole ARE process. Or when you’re daydreaming of all the books you can fill the space on your bookshelf where your study materials sat for years. Or when you have to tell your family and friends as optimistically as you can that you didn’t do your best this time. It sucks because you know no one else thinks any less of you, but you still feel about as sharp as a bowl full of jello.

But failure is also a surefire way to get yourself motivated. To stop harping on your lack of perfection…and to quit getting teary eyed every time you see a light socket or an air handler unit. (True story.)  It motivates you to realize that not everything turns out the way you wanted it to the first time, but with perseverance it will eventually. Life hardly ever goes the way we planed, but sometime the path it takes is even better than we had hopped. The road to becoming a licensed architect is a long one and there are bound to be a few bumps along the way. God knows there were plenty during studio in school.

I’ve decided to not worry about my retake over the holidays (why spoil my favorite time of the year?) and be thankful for my successes instead. I’m still so thrilled to have passed six so far, and know the final pass will come soon enough. In January I’ll start back up researching the resources I missed and figure out when I can sign up for my retake. I have to wait around until May, but that will give me plenty of time to review what I already know and learn as many details as I can as a slower pace. I still have that pesky IDP to finish too, so it’s not like I won’t have the exams on my mind anyway. I know it will all get done in due time…but dang if I’m not a little anxious to see the day.

I guess we don’t call it AREndurance for nothing.

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My granny always said “Patience is a virture, Jennifer Anne…”

… and at this point NCARB is seriously testing mine. Still no word back on my exam, and I’m feeling like I’m in limbo, not sure if I should feel confident in a job well done or complacent in the fact that I’ll be getting cozy with MEEB again next spring. I guess I’m ok with either at this point, I’d just really like to know. The anxious drives home to check the mail are starting to get a little old.

Regardless of when that letter shows up, I”m looking forward to wrapping up this short week and enjoying the Thanksgiving Holiday. I’ll be running across the metro area with Nate as we celebrate the day with both of our families, and hopefully catching as much of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV as I can. (I’m a total sucker for that tradition.) Wishing you and yours a very happy, healthy, and thankful occasion. Stay safe and full, and enjoy a well deserved day free of studying. Cheers!

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MEEB like this…MEEB like that…

Last weekend I saw tweets from @melissardaniel and @arch_girl to the above video of a UofO student showing his love for our favorite BS textbook. In a word? HAAAAAmazing. Hope you enjoy.

Still a week out on my exam score, but I’ve definitely calmed down a bit. Thanks for all your kind and supportive words. Sounds like most people feel pretty defeated after BS… it’s nice to be in good company. I’m off to Seattle for the weekend with Nate to celebrate our 2nd anniversary (time flies when you’re studying). Hope you all have an enjoyable and/or productive weekend too. Cheers!

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